The Perfect Outrage Story


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Liberals can also be outraged because the librarian was fired with no official explanation of what for. That couldn’t have happened if librarians had unions she had been represented by a union.Report

  2. Avatar CaffinatedOne says:

    I’d hope that conservatives would be outraged as well if a good, long serving, librarian were fired over something silly like this. If that’s indeed what happened (we don’t know this), then I’d say that the wrong person was fired. It should have been the person who fired her since there were many ways that this could have been handled better and more constructively. Perhaps, the child in question could have been asked to work with the library to put the next contest together and make it better; that way, they get recognized, but now allow someone else to “win”.Report

  3. Avatar Rod says:

    There are ways to recognize achievement without setting up a contest with “winners” and “losers.” Have a “gold” level set meaningfully high yet within reach of a half dozen or so kids. And silver, bronze, and “participated.” And stress that any kid that reads more for participating in the program is a winner.Report

    • Avatar Notme says:

      What happens when those kids join the real world and are expected to achieve in order to advance? Hopefully they will have one of Mike’s union jobs so they don’t really have to work.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        Why do you think a single prize for first place is a good approximation for the workplace? In most jobs, there are basically three levels of achievement: inadequate (which gets you fired), adequate (which gets you not fired), and above-expecations (which may result in promotion or performance bonuses). Doesn’t Rod’s proposed system better capture that dynamic?Report

      • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

        Maybe they end up in a workplace like mine where we have a ranking system with six levels from unranked, through bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, and topping out with diamond. There are no preset limits on how many drivers make each ranking level. If ten drivers qualify for diamond then 10 drivers are so recognized and earn the appropriate bonuses. If it’s a 100, so be it. If it’s 1, then it’s one.

        As a platinum I want all our drivers to succeed, get ranked higher, and make the bonuses. It’s not a competition. The better drivers our company has, the better reputation we earn from our customers, which gets us more customers and helps me earn more.

        I’d hate to work in the kind of place you seem to prefer. It brings out the inner asshole in everybody. I’ve been there and it sucks. You’re welcome to it.Report

      • Avatar NotMe says:


        The part of Rod’s proposal I find abhorrent is the reward for participating. Why would you want to teach kids that they should expect an award for merely showing up? Not to mention it reminds me of the practice of many high schools these days that have multiple valedictorians. God forbid kids not feel special, it might hurt their self esteem. They may end up as a mass shooter or worse as a republican.Report

      • Avatar trumwill says:

        Showing up is pretty important in the real world, too.

        Anyway, if you participated in a good thing that you didn’t have to participate in, I just don’t see why there is a problem getting an acknowledgement for it. People who participate in NaNoWriMo can put an image on their website that they participated. “Did you make it to 50,000?” “No, but I gave it a shot.” “Cool.” Sometimes participation in and of itself is a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The part of Rod’s proposal I find abhorrent is the reward for participating

        I get that, but his first example was for kids, where rewards for participation can be good things, insofar as we want kids to, you know, participate.

        His second example was for adults, where there is a category of “unranked”. No points for participating!

        (Although, that might not be true either. It might be that Rod’s firm gives “showing up points” and then docks them for failures according to specific metrics.)Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @trumwill Some would say that showing up is 80 percent of success.Report

  4. Avatar Damon says:

    I’m appropriatly outraged.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    So the thing about stories like this is that people often lie about the reasons they got fired, because they’re ashamed of having gotten fired and want people to think it wasn’t their fault. And many employers have policies in place prohibiting management from commenting on the circumstances around termination of employment, so there’s nobody to tell the other side of the story, unless the former employee sues or the employer decides that their reputation is being damaged enough that it’s worth risking a libel suit.

    It’s entirely possible that she’s telling the truth, in which case we should all be outraged. But it sounds an awful lot like a story that was carefully calculated to make the employer look bad and the employee look good. As Will said, there’s something here for everyone to be outraged about. It feels too good to be true.Report

  6. As a couple of people have said, there’s a lot we don’t know from the linked to article. We have the librarian’s word for why she was fired, and we have, as Brandon pointed out, what is likely the (sensible, in my view) position by management that they can’t comment on terminations of employment.

    Also, there’s a suggestion here–in the OP and in the pushback that Rod got for his comment about there being other ways to do a reading promotion program–that the library’s willingness to experiment with another way of getting winners is so out of bounds, we must be outraged. I’m suspicious that the case against the new promotion plan is not as strong as some here think for the following reasons:

    1. We don’t know exactly how the library was considering modifying the program if we look only at the linked to article (which is all I’ve read). That article says, “Gandron had gone so far as to propose that the winner of future contests be chosen at random rather than by merit.” We do not know from this whether the library was doing this contest purely by lots, or if a child had to read, say, 100 books to qualify for the lottery. If the latter, the new policy becomes at least debatable.

    2. When I was a child, my public library had a program where we got incentives to read certain number of books each summer. To use made up numbers, if we read 50 books, we got a free pass to Elitch’s (a Denver amusement park), for example. However, it was mostly on the honor system. If I remember correctly, our parents had to sign something saying we read what we did, and although most of us played by the rules, I suppose there’s a chance that some didn’t. I suspect whatever program is already in place at the library in the linked to article probably had a similar honor system. That’s not to cast aspersions on the perpetual winner,* but more to suggest that any prize-granting promotion a library is bound to be engaged in will likely not be precise, and maybe inserting some randomness into the system might be fairer.

    *I really do mean not to cast aspersions on the winner. One of my concerns is that some people read more but might not get credit for what they read. Or some might read a lot before the contest and just count those books. Or some people are closer readers and some are skimmers.